Sky is turning a pale blue this morning and another day of Indian Summer glory is on its way. Last night I went out with a friend and when I came home I crawled into bed with the latest issue of The Sun. And I read the most amazing essay, Raven by Craig Childs. Childs writes about the wilderness and this piece is excerpted from The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild. It “chronicles the desert ecologist’s intimate encounters with a variety of animal species in the American and Canadian West.” The book will be published in December and I’m planning on buying a copy and perhaps will also buy it for Christmas gifts.
Childs writes beautifully and in Raven, he follows a raven into a canyon. Here are the first few paragraphs, that I’m sure will whet your appetite for more:
“When the first raven came, it was alone, a piece of blackness laboring across a cold dawn sky. I, too, was alone, walking on a winter morning in southeast
It was a big bird, a sorcerer wearing sleek black robes, its two talons tucked against its body as if each grasped a pearl. It altered its path slightly, making a jog around me, its wings laid out as it banked twenty feet off the ground. When it swept in close, I said good morning to it. Startled by my voice, the raven veered away from me. Its wings beat loudly as it let a cough a sound, a surprised quork, and then flew back to wherever it was going.”
We then follow Childs and the raven into a canyon. Along the way we learn that ravens, or Corvus Corax, have the highest bird IQs along with others in the corvid family, crows, magpies, and jays. They can use tools such as sticks, can unzip backpacks and open ice chests. They hunk in packlike fashion and can follow a person’s gaze.
When Childs enters the canyon, he discovers that the raven is one of a crowd and that they don’t want him there. In fact, the birds swooped down at them and threw stones at him. He’s forced to back out of the canyon, but returns later with friends, one who is a raven talker. The group discovers why the canyon is being so fiercely guarded and readers learn that ravens also murder their own to maintain social order.
I cannot recommend this piece enough and am looking forward to buying Child’s book. The Sun Contributors page also notes that Childs lives in
Colorado, and recently completed a descent in an uncharted river in , “180 miles of deep gorges, white water, and villagers aghast at his and his companion’s presence. He also enjoys long walks, the longest of which so far was 120 days in the Tibet Grand Canyon.” His books include House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest and The Way Out: A True Story of Rain and Survival, Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land, Grand Canyon: Time Below the Rim with Gary Ladd.
At his website, www.houseofrain.com he writes: “My writing continues at a frenetic pace, the cab of my truck littered with receipts and envelopes scratched upon with illegible words. But this a mere byproduct, verbiage left over from experiences had on the land, raw encounters among mountain lions, boulders, water holes, and drifting thunderstorms.”